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February 15, 2005



I haven't read a science fiction book since I was about 15 years old, but I have to say after reading this review, Dragon's Egg is going right to the top of my reading list...

bob mcmanus

Too Late.

PZ Myers

Hey, now. It's SF in the tradition of Hugo Gernsback and "Ralph 124C 41+". Cardboard characters, stilted writing, an absolutely flat emotional tone, and dialogue that you can't imagine anyone ever speaking.

But it's got...

It's got...

Umm, why do we ever read that crap, anyway?

belle waring

well PZ, it would be pretty cool if intelligent life evolved on a super-dense collapsed star and hung around in an atmosphere of iron, now wouldn't it? maybe not two terrible novels worth of cool, tho.


Pity the reader who wants technically accurate supa dupa science in their science fiction. Either the author can't write (Forward) or the author fakes it like a Times Square Rolex (Niven, Egan, Bear; I omit cyberpunk and Singularity pr0n from this list).

I think I might have my old Hal Clements inscribed on gold tablets. Just in case.



it would be pretty cool if intelligent life evolved on a super-dense collapsed star

I would like to see a "hard science fiction" novel written by a professional corsetier and/or lingerie designer, dealing with the problems of making a "brassiere" which could deal with the gravitational pull of a super-dense collapsed neutron star.


The only decent Sci-fi I've ever read that comes close to the "Hard SF" label was RA Wilson's Schrodinger's Cast trilogy, which explores Quantum physics and the Multiple Universe idea in a plausable way. But there's far too much sex and philosophy in it for most hard SF fans.


You might want to add some fiber to your diet, eh?

RA Wilson's Schrodinger's Cast trilogy, which explores Quantum physics and the Multiple Universe idea in a plausable way.

Keith, how you say? No, it doesn't. Great typo tho.


Does it make me lame to admit that I actually liked those books, particularly Starquake? Yeah, sure, the characterization is kind of flat, but I'm always on the looking for more and interesting aliens.

joe o

Dragon's Egg seems less like a SF novel than the theory of a SF novel expanded to book length for ease of reference. According to Amazon, 23 other books cite Dragon's Egg. (It looks like Douglas Hofstadter devotes a chapter to Dragon's Egg in his book on translation.) If Forward was to merely mention the concept in a paper, the idea would have disappeared.

Timothy Burke

A more recent example: Gregory Benford's novel Cosm. Simply one of the worst written SF novels I've ever seen, with a protagonist who goes eight degrees beyond wooden, largely existing simply to explore an interesting hard SF concept. I think we need something like a journal or magazine that is dedicated to short essays on gedanken-experiments or something so that these writers don't feel the need to have characters and plots and such.

Matt Weiner

So this makes me think of Borges and Lem--two masters at describing books that probably wouldn't have been nearly so cool if they'd been written. (Or, in The Aleph, nearly so uncool.)


That's why I read Icarus. And, um, philosophy blogs. (Though I will gladly shell out $$$ when the Ben Warbo book comes out.)


Forward's The Flight of the Dragonfly is, if anything, even worse. Again with the nifty physics paper spun out to book length, but since it largely focuses on people, rather than aliens, the charcterization is even more blatantly wooden. Awful, awful, awful.


On the Gedanken-experiment/Lem/Borges thing: When does "I'm being all cool by writing a review of a crazy theoretical novel" become "yup, here's a nifty idea, but I'm too lazy to write it up". I'm thinking more of Oulipo type stuff than Sci-Fi here - I could certainly say "it'd be cool to have a novel without the letter 'e', or one based on a Knight's Tour" but I couldn't have written them as well as Perec (and certainly not in French). Not that "A Study of the Works of Herbert Quain" strikes me as lazy, but I'm wondering - if your hard SF writers are writing horribly wooden characters in their novels, and you have them switch to little essays instead, won't something still suck?

W. Kiernan

What creeps me out about Niven's future history stories is that Niven, in real life a rich guy with a high IQ, posits that in the Future, ordinary fellows will allow successful men (which he defines as "rich guys with high IQs") to knock their wives up (for the genetic betterment of the Race, you see) and what's more, the ordinary guys will be deeply grateful for the privilege. Eeeew!


I read one of Forward's books (don't recall whether it was Dragon's Egg or Flight of the Dragonfly, not that it matters) because I was fooled by all those plaudits that it had recieved. I came away from it with the impression that I had just been subjected to a particularly dry and boring Physics lecture. I suppose if your little soldier salutes at the thought of a differential equation and orbital computations you'll love Dr. Forward's writing, but for the rest of us, we'd prefer little things like, hmm... characterization? Plot? STORY?

Ronin Ro

If you don't like Tales to Astonish, write your own book.


nils h

Well, the two books mentioned above as real crap are books I took care to read twice, then lost...could you sell me the copies please?

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